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"Timeless" (2016)
2 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Timeless is popcorn entertainment, 12 October 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Some minor spoilers ahead; consider yourself warned.

Timeless is basic "turn your brain off" TV sci-fi. Consider the irony of a show about time travel where every week the protagonists are racing the clock to prevent the antagonists from changing the past.

Why? Who knows? Apparently, we have to follow right on the tail of the villains or risk being caught in the backwash of the altered time-stream and be unable to act at all.

This, despite the fact that the protagonists appear to vanish into the past and then reappear in the "present day" after the passage of some indeterminate amount of time, perhaps only seconds or minutes, relative to the people who stayed behind. The people left behind are unable to detect changes in the time- stream. They pretty much take the word of the troubleshooting team on that score. So far, the clandestine recordings by the pilot/programmer and the locket are the only evidence that any changes have occurred, from the standpoint of "mission control".

How the "mission control" people could have experimented with time travel to the point of having a pilot explode due to meeting himself, yet never have made the "locket experiment" themselves is just one of the many aspects of the show that require you to switch your brain off when thinking very much about them.

Don Belisario used to say, "Don't examine this too closely" when Quantum Leap fans would pick apart the time travel "science" behind the show. He could get away with that because Quantum Leap wasn't really a show about time travel. It was really an anthology drama that used wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey to frame the stories.

Timeless is an actual time travel drama, where the show is all about the time travel and the consequences. They seem to be trying to apply the Belisario Paradigm, but they aren't entitled to it. You have to examine it closely because of what they're doing with it - especially since (*spoilers*) there's a strong implication that Flynn and Lucy have a relationship of some kind in the nebulous future and that her diary is his guidebook.

The show has made a point of showing that the people attempting to preserve the time-line are unable to detect actual changes without a report from people who already knew what the previous time-line was like. (So, the show resorts to the old trope that time travelers are immune to their own consequences.) For all they know, the past they are fighting to preserve is a past that has already been altered for the worst by some shadowy conspiracy...

So, of course, the show suggests the possibility that such a shadowy conspiracy exists, that the rich genius that created the project is working with or for them, and that Flynn may in fact be attempting to change history back to what it "should" be. In fact, given what happened to Lucy's sister (and the subsequent revelations about what that meant for her personal history), it's possible that Flynn didn't so much murder his family as accidentally erase them, just as he (probably unintentionally) erased Lucy's sister Amy.

In short, the show is throwing a whole lot of crap at the wall and hoping that some of it sticks.

This, in addition to the fact that the "away team" seems to have zero compunction about changing the past, and they seem to be caring less and less about their own consequences as they see that it's almost impossible to prevent the villains from changing things in small ways even if they are thwarted from changing them in large ways.

Is it entertaining? Maybe. I don't like having to turn my brain off for an hour to enjoy an hour of entertainment. That said, the interactions between Lucy and Flynn, and the intimation that a lot of the changes seem to center around Lucy herself and what that might imply are keeping me interested enough to tune in a couple of more times and see where it goes.

Mortdecai (2015)
3 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
An unexpectedly amusing romp, 19 May 2015

Based upon the trailers (and the goofy head-shot on the posters), I had expected 'Mortdecai' to be a clone of the Inspector Clouseau series. As such, I had low expectations and really had no intention of watching it. I had rented the bluray for my wife.

Instead, I was pulled in during the first few minutes and I ended up laughing throughout the entire film.

Having seen it, I'd compare it to Austin Powers rather than to Inspector Clouseau. This is a good thing.

The thing I enjoyed about the film was that it was sometimes silly, frequently farcical, but it never violated its own rules just for laughs. There's no breaking of the fourth wall, nor do Mortdecai or Jock, his man servant, ever behave as other than what we are told they are.

Gwyneth Paltrow is great as the fantasy upper-crust wife who is smart enough to see what's going on around her but loyal enough to give her husband rope to see his plans through while you know she has her own contingency. Let's also just say that she looks "mahvelous" when she shows up unexpectedly at a party. Rawr!

This is a movie about characters and stereotypes. None of it bears even the remotest resemblance to real life. If you want a film where the characters grow and come to realizations about themselves, this is not that film. If you want a popcorn film that tells you exactly what to expect and then delivers on those expectations, then you'll probably enjoy 'Mortdecai'.

Certainly, it's worth the buck-fifty at the Redbox.

5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Not your average horror movie, 20 October 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I was ready to hate _The New Daughter_. I didn't even set out to watch it. I don't dig horror movies in general, so I was puttering around the house while my wife watched. To my own surprise, it drew me in and I ended up making sure that I was near the TV for the final scenes.

This is not your typical horror movie. It's not really even a psychological thriller. It's basically a Lovecraftian story about things Man Was Not Meant To Know, and the horrors that lurk just out of sight of our everyday civilization; that drive mad anyone unfortunate enough to confront them.

What some people have called "plodding", I would instead refer to as "even pacing". The story sets a slow, but deliberate pace and it keeps it up for most of the film. That is part of the atmosphere of the whole story. Costner is not so much being wooden as he is playing a man who is coming to terms with a malaise that has descended on his family. One that he can't seem to escape and that only becomes more monstrous and desperate, the more he learns about it.

Some parts are predictable, yet most are not. (Part of that predictability is that Costner's family is repeating a pattern that has occurred in the house in the past.) There was more than once when I thought, "they aren't really going there, are they? Yep, I guess they are..."

***spoiler here****

My spoiler is this: This is not a story about hope. If you like your horror stories to have happy endings and a victory dance, then this may not be the one for you. Lovecraft stories and Mythos stories rarely end with the protagonist completely conquering Evil or emerging whole, healthy and sane after confronting it.

If you like your horror to give you something to think about afterward, though, then give _The New Daughter_ a try.

2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
No clear comedic direction, awful ending, 7 January 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Most of the criticisms have been made in the previous 10 pages of comments. This movie attempts to merge the sensibilities of a Neil Simon script with the raunchy hijinx of _Something About Mary_. The result is a predictable mishmash that is barely funny most of the time.

The worst sin is that Eddie becomes less and less likable as the movie goes on. Lila is supposed to be the monster but by the end of it all I was sympathizing with her and just shaking my head at Eddie. In a final desperate attempt to shock a laugh out of the viewer, Eddie (in patented Ben Stiller fashion) appears to have learned his lesson, taken stock of his life, and turned his life around. Do yourself a favor. When Miranda shows up at the end, hit the stop button when she leaves and pretend like the last sixty seconds of the movie doesn't exist.

The "twist" that follows turns what might have been a sweet ending into an indictment of Eddie's character that is supposed to be a laugh-out-loud surprise but instead just left me asking "What kind of asshat is this guy, anyway?" I wanted the Farrelly Brothers to refund the last two hours of my life afterwards.

Se7en (1995)
23 out of 33 people found the following review useful:
Didn't live up to the hype, 3 August 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I won't bother with spoilers, as there are plenty of them in the other comments.

When all was said and done, my wife and I looked at each other and said "This is the scariest movie ever?"

What I saw was a run-of-the-mill "insane killer gets tracked down by the older, smart cop and the younger, gung-ho cop while manipulating everybody in the process". Perhaps I've become jaded, but I found nothing here that was particularly scary or mind-bending. A clever nut-job leads the police on a mad chase, punishing people as "sinners". The only difference between this and a half-dozen other serial killer movies is the theme of the killings and the fact that the killer turns himself in 3/4's of the way into the story.

This leads to the "twist" ending that seems to remain with so many people. I didn't find the "twist" horrific, though. I simply found it jarring. It didn't fit and it didn't particularly surprise me either. Once the killer decided to let Mills live, you knew he was going to mess with him somehow. The only surprise is the degree of what he did. As far as I'm concerned, they could have dispensed with the whole "wrath" setup and ended with John Doe's words to Mills - "You're only sitting here because I ALLOWED you to live and you'll know that every time you look in the mirror."

Instead, they had to go for a "shocker" ending. This is the "twist" ending that supposedly makes the movie.

Here's the thing, though - The ending doesn't fit the killer's MO. We're given every reason to believe that John Doe is clever, capable, and highly intelligent. He's on a mission. He believes in his mission. He punishes the guilty for their sins, not the innocent. Why, then, does he pick a completely innocent stranger and use her as a vehicle to brand himself as personification of Envy? If he really was envious of Mills (a fact that is highly doubtful), he was already deserving of punishment so why kill an innocent person to make the point? How does the manipulation of Mills into becoming Wrath actually punish Mills for having committed the sin of Wrath?

None of these things make any logical sense within the framework of the story. The ending is completely out of synch with everything we've learned about the killer, including his own statements. All you can do is shrug your shoulders and say "Well, you can't expect an insane killer to be logical." and that just doesn't sit right with me. Not after the buildup we were given concerning John Doe.

I can't recommend this movie. If you want to see a taut, disturbing film in this style (sans the insane serial killer) then rent "8 Millimeter" instead.